South Africa v Sri Lanka, World Cup 2015, 1st Q-F, Sydney March 17, 2015

'We're not going to choke' - de Villiers

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As South Africa gear up for the match AB de Villiers said they have been working towards for the last "two to three years," they have come to the conclusion that they have had enough. But enough in the best way possible.

"There's enough laughing, there's enough stress, there's enough nerves, there's good cricket, there's enough bad cricket. We've got a mixture of everything on the team. We've just got to find a way to win tomorrow," de Villiers said. And do something no South African team has done before.

The country's history in the World Cup knockouts cannot be avoided, especially not on the eve of another match. For the squad, it means even though they may not look back on the under-achievements, others do it for them. Their choice is either to confront or avoid it, and they are doing both. The former publicly - Russell Domingo joked about the chokers tag; de Villiers recapped the blow-out in the 2007 semi-final against Australia which he put down to "over-analysis" - and the latter privately.

De Villiers already has some idea of what he wants to see happen and it does not involve anything South Africa do not already do, or any outlandish demands on them. "We have certain strengths that we like to focus on. Strike with a new ball, try and bowl them out, and if we bat first, try and get a big total and put them under pressure," he said. "No one is going to ask us if we played exceptional cricket when we win the World Cup, we're just going to say that we won the Cup, so we're just going to find a way to win the game tomorrow. All I can say is we're not going to choke. We're just going to play a good game of cricket tomorrow and come out on top. Simple."

On Monday night, South Africa held a festive team dinner, complete with a mock interview in which Wayne Parnell quizzed Domingo about his chances of playing - the coach confirmed he is very much in contention - and then cancelled their match-day-minus-one training session. They "played a few games in the park, had a good time and a laugh" because that's what people who have done enough work in the nets and on the field, in front of a computer screen and with a calculator, do. Everything else that needs to be done can only be done on game day.

"We know exactly what's coming tomorrow. It's an important game. It's exactly what we've been working for the last two to three years. We're very prepared for this and just ready to go," de Villiers said.

If that sounds a little too similar to what every South African team before this one has said, that's because it is. But de Villiers has promised there are differences. As a player, he has been in this situation twice before. Now, at his third tournament, he is the captain and has taken it on himself to set the tone.

"It's partly my responsibility as a captain to lead in the way that I want the boys to go out there," he said. "The way that I show energy together with a few senior players around me and the language we use, the kind of energy we show when we walk out, the things we do and the way we lead, will make it easy for the rest of the guys to follow and see what should be happening in the quarter-finals of a World Cup."

And what is it that should be happening? Explorer Mike Horn will give South Africa some answers when he gives them their pre-game pep talk. Whatever he told Germany in the lead-up to their Football World Cup final last year certainly worked.

The preparation is done. The group stage is done. Even the bulk of the playing in this tournament is done. All eight teams left will hope the losing is done. And if it's not, they will know they will be done. That's really all there is to it.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 18, 2015, 8:48 GMT

    Yep, AB's right! They didn't choke instead SL did the honors today....

  • P on March 18, 2015, 6:08 GMT

    Looking at scorecard now, it seems Sri Lanka are chocking. .. 116/8

  • Muhammad Ali on March 18, 2015, 4:19 GMT

    This is going to be AB and SAF's world cup if they win today. The only barrier is to win one KO game and their confidence will grow immensly for SF and Final.

  • Junaid on March 18, 2015, 4:04 GMT

    lets see how its goes for South africa cuz words dnt speak the action have to show can they really come out from phobia of they own nightmare Choking out the big question.

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2015, 2:23 GMT

    As long as SA don't forget to enjoy it. They get so bogged down in the expectations and preparation and pressure that they forget why they play the game at all. If their spirit is high, and their brains are thinking hard because they are enjoying themselves, they will win. We know they have the skills and the talent. That is obvious.

  • Sri on March 18, 2015, 1:56 GMT

    What was the best course of action for the RSA captain on the eve of a knockout: 1. Talk about not choking and then choke 2. Remain silent and then choke 3. Remain silent and then somehow not choke Maybe 3 would be the least pressure option!

  • Ranga on March 18, 2015, 1:44 GMT

    I do not want to see SA choke. I want to see SL beat SA,

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2015, 1:21 GMT

    SL has dealt the pressure of playing knockouts better than SA. They are the runner-up in the last two editions. SA yet to prove themselves how to handle pressure in the WC. ABD and his team should walk the talk. Enough being said by ABD and it is time to prove how best they are. It is 65-35 favoring SL and if SA lose the toss, it is anybody's guess.

  • Dummy on March 18, 2015, 1:10 GMT

    This time srilanka will choke and lose badly

  • Dummy4 on March 17, 2015, 21:47 GMT

    I see this as a battle between two groups of individuals, I didn't use the word team as neither side can lay claim to that title! Unfortunately both groups rely too much on to few, if AB and Amla fail so do SA, if Mahela and Sanga fail ditto. Neither can seriously lay claim to winning the ultimate prize as they do no play as a team whereby everyone is contributing. That is a huge thing when deciding who is going to win this World cup. I see Aus, NZ and India playing as a team, the rest no where near.

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